House Republicans are seeking updates on a media leak investigation into former FBI general counsel James Baker, according to a letter obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows asked John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, for an update on the leak probe in a letter sent Monday.
The letter quotes extensively from a transcript of Baker’s Oct. 18 closed-door testimony before the Oversight and House Judiciary Committees, which have investigated the FBI’s handling of investigations into President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
As the top FBI lawyer under James Comey, Baker was directly involved in both of the high-profile investigations.
In one exchange, Baker’s lawyer, Daniel Levin, prohibited his client from answering questions about his interactions with reporters during what he said was an ongoing criminal leak investigation.
“I’m sorry, I’m going to cut – not let him answer these questions right now,” Levin told Jordan when asked about Baker’s interactions with reporters.
“You may or may not know, he’s been the subject of a leak investigation which is still – a criminal leak investigation that’s still active at the Justice Department,” Levin continued.
Republicans appeared surprised by the revelation, according to the transcript.
“You’re saying he’s under criminal investigation? That’s why you’re not letting him answer?” Meadows asked Levin during the interview, according to the letter.
“Yes,” replied Levin.
A source familiar with the matter downplayed the investigation, referring to a Dec. 21, 2017 article from The Washington Post that reported that Baker had been under a leak investigation, but the decision was made not to charge the FBI lawyer. It’s unclear if that is still the case.
“I’m 100 percent confident they did not find any wrongdoing,” the source told TheDCNF on the condition of anonymity.
The source also said that the investigation discussed in the congressional hearing “is not a new or reopened investigation” separate from the one referred to by The Post.
Baker, who resigned from the FBI in May 2018, has been in the news of late following a report from The New York Times that he was involved in the bureau decision to open a counterintelligence investigation of Trump following the firing of James Comey as FBI director. (RELATED: FBI Reportedly Opened Counterintelligence Investigation Of Trump After Comey’s Firing)
Levin’s exchange with Republicans followed after Baker discussed interactions he had with Mother Jones reporter David Corn, who met with dossier author Christopher Steele prior to the 2016 election.
It is unclear what alleged leak Baker was under investigated for. A spokesman for Durham declined comment.
Jordan then asked Baker whether reporters Franklin Foer and Michael Isikoff ever reached out to him. Both of the journalists reported stories about the Russia investigation. Isikoff, who co-authored a book with Corn, also met with Steele prior to the 2016 election.
Levin blocked the line of inquiry about reporter contacts, saying: “I’m not going to have him answer any questions as asking about any interactions with the press.”
Baker has been identified as a target of leak investigations in the past, though past reporting has suggested that he was not under scrutiny as recently as December 2017.
Circa reported on July 28, 2017 that Baker was under investigation for leaking classified information regarding technology developed by Yahoo Inc. to collect upstream data. The information, which had not been disclosed by the government, was published in October 2016 by Reuters.
The Washington Post report from Dec. 21, 2017 did not provide details of the Baker leak investigation.
Sources familiar with Baker’s testimony have previously told TheDCNF that the FBI lawyer acknowledged having contact with Corn, the Mother Jones reporter, regarding the Steele dossier.
On Nov. 9, 2016, a day after Trump’s election, Corn provided Baker with a copy of the dossier that he had obtained. (RELATED: Top FBI Lawyer Told Congress About Rosenstein Allegations, His Contacts With The Media)
Corn told The Hill that he provided Baker with a copy of the dossier in hopes of finding out whether the FBI had verified any of its allegations. He had contacted Baker, who he knows socially, prior to the election.
Corn was one of two reporters who met with Steele prior to the election to publish stories based on information contained in the dossier. Corn’s Oct. 31, 2016 article was what led the FBI to cut ties with Steele because of unauthorized media contacts.
Though the FBI formally ended the relationship, investigators quickly established a back channel contact to Steele shortly after Trump’s election win.
Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who had contact with Steele, was tapped to provide summaries of his interactions with Steele. Ohr testified to Congress on Aug. 28, 2018 that he was introduced on Nov. 21, 2016 to Joe Pientka, an FBI agent who worked alongside Peter Strzok on the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.
Baker also revealed in his testimony that during the campaign he met with Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Perkins Coie, the firm that represented the DNC. Baker said that Sussmann provided him with information related to Russia’s meddling in the presidential campaign.
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